Skip main navigation

What can you do with a public health degree?

Discover everything you need to know about online public health degrees and the career opportunities you could unlock with a postgraduate qualification.

Two doctors at work

When you think about healthcare, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably a doctor or nurse treating patients in a hospital. But there’s so much more to it than that. What about the side of healthcare that promotes community health and wellbeing over that of the individual?

That’s where public health comes in. It’s all about taking a zoom-out approach to healthcare, thinking about how research, experiments, policies and education can transform the health of people all over the world. For that reason, public health professionals often work alongside local and national governments, nonprofits and even international health organisations (in extreme circumstances).

So, if you want to have a positive impact on healthcare and the environment but are more suited to big-picture thinking than treating individuals, an online public health degree could be the perfect next step for you. Keep reading to discover which careers you could unlock.

What is a public health degree?

Public health is a very broad field that looks at how different factors affect and contribute to the health of communities, nations and even the global population. While some public health workers might focus on research, education and policymaking, others take on more practical or scientific roles — mitigating disease outbreaks, studying dangerous chemicals or even handling environmental emergencies. 

If this sort of career interests you, a public health degree can prepare you for your future role. First, you’ll study public health in a broad sense, looking at different areas and theories, but you can usually choose a specialism later on in the program that relates to your ideal career. 

Online Degree

Masters of Public Health (MPH)

  • 1-2 years
  • postgraduate
  • Flexible Learning
Apply now

Public health degree jobs

Wondering which careers you could go into with a public health bachelor’s? We’ve got details of three potential careers and their salaries below — keep in mind that if you’re aiming for a more specialist role, you’ll likely need to complete a master’s degree, or even a PhD. More on that later.

1. Community health worker

Community health workers bridge the gap between communities and accessible healthcare, taking on a variety of responsibilities to provide essential support — usually outside of a formal health setting, like a hospital. 

This may include providing crucial health education, first aid training, informal counselling sessions or home visits, and you could end up working for a non-profit, government organisation or agency.

Average salary in the UK: £26,544 p/a

2. Health and safety officer

If health and safety is second nature to you, this could be a great role to get into. Health and safety officers can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, construction sites and other workplaces, and it’s their job to create procedures and policies that prevent health and safety risks. This is a very important role, and normally requires a relevant degree — a bachelor’s in public health could be a great choice.

Average salary in the UK: £31,298 p/a

3. Healthcare administrator

Want to work in a healthcare setting (like a hospital, nursing home or clinic) but more interested in the business and administration side? A job as a healthcare administrator ticks those boxes, and you’ll be able to put your public health degree to good use when looking at quality improvement strategies, policy development, and managing relationships with healthcare professionals. You may also be responsible for things like financial planning, record keeping and recruitment.

Average salary in the UK: £38,680 p/a

Public health master’s degree jobs

Many of the more specialist roles in the field of public health require further skills and training after a bachelor’s degree, which is why we’ve split career options into these two sections. With a master’s in public health, you’ll unlock a wealth of other opportunities in areas like biostatistics, environmental health and epidemiology. 

Whether you want to work for the NHS, a government agency, a local authority, a nonprofit, or in academia, you’ll be perfectly poised to make waves in the field of public health. Take a look at seven careers you could aim for with a postgraduate degree.

1. Biostatistician

If you love working with data, but want to use your talents to protect the public from potential health risks, a biostatistician could be the right fit. Essentially, they collect and analyse biology and public health data to try and predict future outcomes — with the aim of preventing future risks or reducing the impact on living beings and the environment. 

For example, biostatisticians carried out a lot of important research on COVID-19, helping the government verify statistics and form policies.

Average salary in the UK: £43,619 p/a

2. Public health nurse

Perhaps you’re already a qualified nurse or midwife, but hoping to specialise in the field of public health. In that case, a public health master’s is the perfect way to level up your career. As a public health nurse, you can work in a variety of fields, including infection control, sexual health and emergency response. 

While some nurses prefer to work in health promotion, where you’re largely educating and supporting communities with health issues, you may prefer a more practical role in health protection — guarding the public from infectious diseases and other hazards.

Average salary in the UK: £41,844 p/a

3. Toxicologist

Were you a big fan of practical assessments in chemistry at school? Say no more. Toxicologists study materials, chemicals, medicines and other substances to check whether they could have any harmful effects on humans, animals or other wildlife. This role involves a lot of lab work, but also data analysis, scientific reports and creating regulations. 

You may find yourself checking new pharmaceuticals, working with forensic scientists or reviewing chemicals for the government — plenty of exciting opportunities! Plus, very experienced toxicologists can earn over £75,000 annually.

Average salary in the UK: £37,554 p/a

4. Epidemiologist

It’s all in the name with this one — epidemiologists study epidemics, or disease outbreaks, and try to identify causes, transmission methods and the effects of an outbreak. Not only do they design experiments and analyse data to learn more about diseases, but they also work with global colleagues, governments and health specialists to stop and prevent any escalation of an outbreak.

As you can tell, epidemiologists have an absolutely essential part to play in protecting the public, especially in light of the recent global pandemic.

Average salary in the UK: £43,581 p/a

5. Public health policy analyst

If you’re interested in shaping policies around public health in government, healthcare or research institutions, working as a public health policy analyst could be an excellent choice. They look at current policies, identify any gaps or potential improvements that could be made, and propose evidence-based solutions that prioritise public health. 

The aim of these policies is to advocate for the health of people from all backgrounds, ensuring everyone has access to safe, affordable and good quality healthcare and resources. A master’s in public health will give you the perfect foundation for a career in public health policy.

Average salary in the UK: £37,210 p/a

6. Professor of public health 

You’ll need a PhD to become a public health professor, but you’ll have to start off with a master’s. If promoting public health is your life’s goal, there’s no better career than becoming a professor and transferring your crucial knowledge to future generations.

As an academic, you’ll also be shaping public health policy and carrying out essential research alongside your teaching duties, so you can guarantee that you’ll be at the forefront of public health innovation.

Average salary in the UK: £76,649 p/a

7. Environmental health scientist

When there’s an environmental health emergency, such as severe air pollution, soil erosion or a toxic waste spill, these are the scientists who will be right there at the scene. Their expertise allows them to clear polluted areas, but they also advise governments and policymakers on how to prevent and reduce environmental health risks.

So, if you’d like to be a protector of the environment, including the humans, animals and plants that inhabit it, this could be the career for you.

Average salary in the UK: £34,232 p/a

How to get a public health degree

In the UK, you apply for undergraduate degrees via UCAS, choosing five degree options and ranking them in order of which one you’d most like to join. You also normally have to meet the entry requirements stated by your chosen university and write a personal statement detailing your suitability for the degree (mentioning experience, skills and passion for the subject).

For master’s programs, you apply directly on the institution’s website, and you’ll usually need a relevant undergraduate degree in healthcare, social sciences, or biological sciences under your belt, most likely with a 2:1 grade or above. Some MSc public health courses also expect you to have healthcare or public health work experience. 

Is public health a good degree?

If you know you’d like to work in the field of public health, making a difference to lives on a community, national or even global scale, a public health degree is a great way to learn the specialist knowledge you need. 

What’s more, studying a public health degree can put you in touch with leading researchers in the field, meaning you may open doors to future job opportunities or improve your chances with PhD applications.

Online Degree

Public Health & Health Promotion MSc online

  • 1-2 years
  • postgraduate
  • Flexible Learning
Apply now

Explore online public health degrees on FutureLearn

We’ve got some great online public health degrees, designed to help you get to the next step in your career. You can study from home, or wherever suits you, so that you don’t have to sacrifice your work, family or other life commitments for your studies. Take a look at your online degree options below.

Related stories on FutureLearn

FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now